Isabel Kelly

Profit with Purpose

Isabel Kelly

Isabel Kelly is a social justice advocate. Before Profit With Purpose, a consultancy she founded after a few years at Salesforce, she ran the international team at Salesforce Foundation and turned it into a profitable ($12m revenue) business unit within the company. This enabled the delivery of the 1/1/1 model of corporate philanthropy - volunteering, grants and product donation.

This was, in effect, a start-up social enterprise embedded into a fast-growing commercial company.

Now with Profit with Purpose, Isabel is bringing both the NGO and corporate worlds together by creating strategies with SMEs who want to integrate real social purpose into their business.

Ogunte: What are you doing differently?

Isabel Kelly: I have a fairly unique perspective having worked in nonprofits and business. Having ran the international team of the Salesforce Foundation, I bring my experience and understanding of the priorities and challenges that exist in both sectors and focus on strategies to bring them together - to deliver both profit and purpose (which is why I called my company Profit with Purpose).

Ogunte: What do you know now that you wished you had known from the beginning.

Isabel Kelly: I wish I'd known I had an entrepreneurial streak! The nonprofit world, experienced through my work at Oxfam and Amnesty International, is a place of great learning and integrity, but can be riddled with hierarchy and bureaucracy. Working at Salesforce I learned to maximise the use of lean resources (human and financial). I learned how to benefit from creating effective partnerships both within and outside of the company, and how to manage people, money, and partnerships so that they were all focused on our end goal of making a significant social impact. I can now speak the 'business' as well as the 'nonprofit' language.

Ogunte: Can you share a learning story?

Isabel Kelly: My role at Salesforce was to develop senior executives into advocates for the company's social purpose work. Many came from other tech companies and had had no exposure to any kind of work beyond their business function of sales, finance, HR etc., and they are all very busy people. I take with me that, approached in the right way, at the right time, using the right language, the Senior Executives can be the strongest leaders and advocates for social purpose within the company. 

When the Salesforce EMEA Chairman became a Board Member at Teach First and donated a considerable sum of his own money and mentored the CEO, I felt pretty proud! Just this week I learned that the Salesforce President of EMEA Sales is in Kenya visiting the slum-based school we worked with for 10+ years, and where he and his family have sponsored several students, and that he is meeting many nonprofit users of Salesforce technology.

Ogunte: What questions do your clients never ask you, you wished they did…?

Isabel Kelly: It's early in my consulting practice to know really, but I think I wish clients were more questioning about WHY they do the things they do... Organisations tend to get very focused on the tactics (the 'what') and the 'why' gets lost along the way. It's essential to have a clearly articulated purpose or vision for the social impact they want to create, together with a great plan for how to get there. Clients rush to wanting to fundraise or increase their income but often need to take a few steps back to better articulate their proposition.

I wish clients were more questioning about WHY they do the things they do

Ogunte: How do you want to close the gender gap in your day to day activities?

Isabel Kelly: We need to change the face of senior leadership in companies, including Boards, C-level, and senior execs. There are still too many 'boys' clubs', too many white, middle-aged men in these positions. This is not representative of the world, of business or society, and does not enable businesses to be at their best or make good decisions for society. Diversity in all its forms, including gender, must become the norm at all levels of business.

Ogunte: Describe your ideal Profit with Purpose event?

Isabel Kelly: I would have had Dr. Pamela Hartigan who sadly passed away recently. I'd have asked her to speak about her book "The Power of Unreasonable People' - a reminder to all of us who strive to create social impact against seemingly intractable odds or in the face of indifference. 

I would have my friend Caroline Fiennes from Giving Evidence who is a brilliant and thought-provoking speaker about effective charitable giving based on evidence, who would challenge everyone to move away from irrational decision-making when spending money on social purpose.

Too many speakers can get boring, so I'd then get Nile Rodgers to play a host of his hits and I defy anyone not to dance! While there's enormous value in listening and learning, it's just as valuable for the audience to get a chance to interact and share their own experience (while dancing).

Ogunte: How does your eagerness to be involved as a social entrepreneurs’ supporter stem from what happened earlier on in your life?

Isabel Kelly: At Salesforce we donated and discounted amazing complex technology for nonprofits and social enterprises. Many of these organisations thought that the technology was a solution to their problems, but then just got stuck again. The technology is actually the end product of a process of working out what their overall aims and objectives are, how they're going to fulfill those objectives and how they're going to measure them in order to know if they're succeeding or failing. Once all of those things are in place, technology makes sense. It became so clear to me that many social enterprises jump the earlier stages and go straight to trying to find solutions and get lost or stuck. I want to help them take a few steps back, come up with a great plan, and then move forward.

Collaboration is the holy grail of the nonprofit (and corporate responsibility) sector

Ogunte: If I tell you “collaboration, myths and realities”, what are you telling me?

Isabel Kelly: Along with social impact, collaboration is the holy grail of the nonprofit (and corporate responsibility) sector. While everybody talks about it, it rarely happens ... due to conflicting priorities, egos, funding needs etc. We waste a huge amount of time, effort, and money on working in silos and recreating wheels ... I don't know if I have the solution, but technology can be one way of at least collaborating to analyse the effects of individual organisations activities and outcomes (that's if you can persuade people to publish or open up their precious data).

Ogunte: Do you want to share a piece of wisdom before we go?

Isabel Kelly: Learning and change should be a feature of your entire life - never settle for where you've got to ... I just turned 50 this year and last year I learned to swim!

Ogunte: What’s on your itunes selection today?

“Golden Mile” by Daniel Rossen
“Aquarela Do Brasil” by Gal Costa
“Masquerade: Waltz” by Aram Khachaturian
“He's the Greatest Dancer” by Sister Sledge (featuring Nile Rodgers)

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